The stage 12 parcours suits a range of riders, so many will be dreaming of victory in Córdoba. The stage could culminate in a reduced bunch sprint, or with riders crossing the finish line in much smaller groups. The two categorised climbs in the second half of the stage will influence the result, but to what degree?
Stage 12 profile
Stage 12 of La Vuelta a España departs from Jaén — the tenth occasion a Vuelta stage has started here after first appearing in 1973.
The race reaches Córdoba after 106km, where we have an intermediate sprint. After passing through the city, the riders head to the Alto de San Jeronimo. The second category ascent averages 3.3% over 13km. However, the first 5.1km average 6.9%, and thereafter numerous downhill sections decreases the average gradient before the summit is crested.
After the descent, the riders return to Córdoba for a second occasion. After navigating around the city, the finish line is passed for the first occasion with just over 30km remaining. The riders will then take on the Alto Del 14%. The climb averages 5.6% over 7.6km, though as is the norm at La Vuelta, the gradients are irregular. The most difficult section is the final 1.8km, which averages 9.4%.
At the top, they’ll still be almost 20km left, and the initial 10km are downhill. Some sections of the descent are technical, so the bravest descenders will be able to make an impression here. The final 10km are flat, and take place around Córdoba, where the city hosts a stage finish for the twentieth occasion.
The two categorised climbs will have a major impact on the stage result. However, they are far from the only factor. A lot could change in the 20km remaining after the Alto Del 14%. There'll be time to make up ground on the descent, whilst solo attackers must preserve energy to stay clear on the conclusive 10km, where the road flattens.
Should any of the GC favourites roll the dice, it must be a carefully thought out move, perhaps with satellite riders dropping back from the breakaway to support their leader. In spite of that, Primož Roglič caught his rivals off-guard when he attacked on the Puerto de Almáchar two days ago.
Of the GC favourites, Roglič is by far the quickest in a sprint. Felix Großschartner and Egan Bernal have also demonstrated a turn of speed. However, Roglič’s rivals know that towing him to the line leaves him with a great chance of winning the stage. Due to this, Jumbo-Visma might be forced to the front of the peloton. With decisive, mountains stages approaching, they may prefer to preserve their resources. This leaves the breakaway with a good chance.
Astana - Premier Tech have recently announced that they’ll continue in 2022 with the return of Alexander Vinokourov. However, they haven't genuinely challenged for a Vuelta a España stage since Alex Aranburu finished second in the opening time-trial. Aranburu has since withdrawn from La Vuelta, which is a blow for Astana — he would have been a viable option here. Instead, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre and Omar Fraile may try their luck.
Fraile looks ready for a big day...
Matteo Trentin is another rider with supreme pedigree at La Vuelta — he won four stages at the 2017 edition. Trentin played his hand from the stage 10 breakaway but could only finish thirteenth. The kilometres after the final climb allow strong descenders such as Trentin to move back to the front of the race if they are dropped, where he’d be threatening in a sprint.
Michael Matthews possesses similar qualities to Trentin, and would perhaps be even more feared by others in a sprint. Rob Stannard and Nick Schultz are Team BikeExchange's other options.
Trek-Segafredo have had a sound Vuelta a España up to this point. Kenny Elissonde enjoyed a brief spell in red, whilst Giulio Ciccone looks likely to finish in the top ten overall. However, we haven’t seen much of Grand Tour debutant Quinn Simmons. The American has demonstrated good climbing and sprinting skills before, and won the Tour de Wallonie in late July. If he joins the breakaway, he might be competing for victory in Córdoba.
Other riders to consider from a breakaway are Michael Storer, Dylan van Baarle, Mauri Vansevenant, Jhonatan Narváez and Clément Champoussin.
We are picking Jhonatan Narváez to win stage 12 of La Vuelta a España. The Ecuadorian is in good shape — he sprinted to sixth place from the breakaway on stage 10. He possesses phenomenal acceleration, which means he'd be one of the favourites in a reduced group finish.
Cover image: Luis Angel Gomez / ASO